Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque: Eclectic Architecture in Istanbul

In his book “Le Spleen de Paris”, Charles Baudelaire, one of the greatest French poets of the 19th century, declares: “No matter where! As long as it’s out of this world! Perhaps, with this line, he wanted to tell readers about the depressions and troubles of the 19th century in which he lived. Until this century, societies had perhaps never felt unrest so deeply before.

Indeed, change is inevitable for societies. As a change occurs, every area in which the change spreads in society is affected. Therefore, the social events that took place after the Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to the 19th century, brought about great changes. As a result, art, music, design and architecture were naturally affected and new trends emerged.

A general view of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Aksaray, Istanbul, March 9, 2011. (Photo by Hasan Ay)

This wind of change, which began in Europe, also influenced the Ottoman Empire and inevitably affected all fields, from art to architecture. New styles, for example, began to be seen in architecture. One of them was “eclectic architecture”.

Eclecticism

Eclecticism is the collection of different architectural styles in one structure. This architectural style, which dominated the period in the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in Europe and America, was in fact born of a need for innovation.

In fact, there is no clear characteristic that we can use to define this architectural trend. The most important thing about this is the use of two or more architectural styles together. The eclectic architecture also bears touches of different movements in the decorations. It fully reflects the characteristics of the period in which it emerged.

Among the structures built with this architectural trend in the Ottoman Empire, one of the best examples is the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque.

A painting of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque.  (Wikimedia)

A painting of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque. (Wikimedia)

History of the mosque

The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque was commissioned between 1869 and 1871 by Pertevniyal Sultan, the wife of Sultan Mahmud II and the mother of Sultan Abdülaziz. The valid sultan (mother sultan) attached great importance to the construction of the mosque and had it designed as a complex consisting of a school, a tomb, a muvakkithane (place where prayer times are calculated), a fountain and a mosque.

According to some sources, the müneccimbaşı (the title given to the chief astrologer of the court of the Ottoman Empire) determined the auspicious time for the foundation of the mosque on January 4, 1869. Therefore, all preparations were made for the foundation of the mosque. to be laid today at 4:15 p.m.

While state notables, religious scholars and teachers attended the mosque’s inauguration ceremony, Pertevniyal Sultan is said to have watched the event from the window of a house that can see the square. The construction of the mosque took three years.

Interior view of Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Aksaray, Istanbul, March 9, 2011. (Photo by Hasan Ay)

An interior view of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Aksaray, Istanbul, Turkey, November 5, 2019. (Shutterstock)

The Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque is located in the Aksaray district of Istanbul. Aksaray has been an important trade and transportation center for many civilizations since ancient times. It has been one of the central places of Istanbul from Roman times to the Ottoman Empire. Some magnificent structures from the Ottoman Empire still stand here. The Ottoman Imperial Mosque is one of the works in the region that best reflects the period in which it was built.

Architectural features

There is no clear information about the architect of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque. Different sources name different architects. While some sources, for example, write that the Italian painter and designer Pietro Montani was the architect of the historic mosque, according to other sources, Sarkis and Agop Balyan of the Balyan family, who were among the architects of the Ottoman palace, were the names behind this beautiful architecture. There are also sources that say the architect was Montani, while Sarkis drew the plans and Agop helped.

Researcher and writer Pars Tuğlacı names Sarkis and Agop Balyan as the architects of the mosque in her book titled “The Role of the Balian Family in Ottoman Architecture”. Professor Afife Batur points to Agop Balyan as the architect of the mosque, based on plans and documents found in the archives of the presidency and in the “Encyclopedia of Istanbul from Past to Present”. These three names mentioned were important and architecturally influential figures of the 19th century.

It is said that when Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque was built, Pertevniyal Sultan ordered it to be as big as Ortaköy Mosque. For this reason, the mosque’s harim (the place of worship) was built as large as the Ortaköy Mosque’s harim, but its courtyard was kept wider.

A close-up of the unique dome of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Aksaray, Istanbul, March 2019. (Shutterstock)

Close-up of architectural details of the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque, Aksaray, Istanbul, March 17, 2019. (Shutterstock)

The mosque is architecturally quite different from classical mosques with its neo-Gothic design. Built in an eclectic style, it combines classical Ottoman, Moorish, Turkish, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The mosque has four large arches, which have been placed on four legs, and a single dome. This unique dome of the mosque is tall but small. There is intense stone work on the facades of the mosque. Likewise, hand-drawn decorations dominated by polished blue with gold gilding extend throughout the interior of the mosque.

The courtyard of the mosque is accessible through three gates to the east, west and north. The courtyard gate of the mosque overlooking Aksaray Square is one of the finest examples of Ottoman stone masonry. The mosque library was transferred to the Süleymaniye Library. In the square arrangement made in Aksaray Square between 1956 and 1959, some elements of the mosque were removed or their location changed.

How to get there

Aksaray is one of the central districts of Istanbul. Therefore, you can easily get there from many parts of the city. You can come from many places by connecting to the T1 tram, which has a stop right in front of the mosque.

After visiting the mosque, you can also take a unique tour of Istanbul in the historical peninsula where you will observe important historical buildings and places.

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